A study by insurance broker Marsh indicates that using blockchain technology could help to save US$300 per container “in terms of labour and the time and money spent processing associated documents”.
For an ultra-large container ship (ULCS) carrying 18,000 containers, the saving could amount to US$5.4m, the report stated.
A previous study by Maersk said that, on average, about 30 people and organisations touch the shipment of a product using a shipping container.
That process resulted in more than 200 separate interactions, each requiring a different set of documents, typically done by humans interacting with multiple parties.
Author Jody Cleworth, CEO of Marine Transport International, noted that blockchain would “dehumanise the process of buying, selling and perhaps operating”, helping to reduce head-count costs in European and Western countries.
However, he also stated: “There’s a duty of care to ensure this technology is implemented in the right settings. For example, we don’t need to create social economic issues in developing countries where jobs might be replaced by automation.”
One of the key challenges identified is the “apprehension over sharing data” preventing the supply chain from evolving beyond “proof-of-concept” trials.
The biggest risk of all, Cleworth added, is that the “technology won’t be used or that it will be used on a proprietary basis.”
Currently, at the Port of Antwerp, blockchain is being used in container security processes but not for tracking containers while a consortium at the Port of Rotterdam is involved in a two-year trial that will test blockchain applications for sharing logistical and contractual information between parties.
Maersk ran a limited blockchain-based freight tracking trial earlier in 2017 with a single client’s shipment of goods from the Port of Rotterdam to the Port of Newark.